corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Kings 8

 

 

Verse 6

THE ARK’S NEW HOME

‘The priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto His place.’

1 Kings 8:6

The site of the Temple was selected by David before he died. It was Mount Moriah, which was the scene of Abraham’s sacrifice. It lay to the north-east of Mount Zion. David reared an altar to commemorate the arrest of the destroying angel, so that the site was rendered doubly sacred from its ancient and more recent associations with redemption. But the choice of the site caused great difficulties, as the sides of the hill were steep, and the area of the summit was insufficient for the Courts of the Temple. It was necessary, therefore, that walls of immense thickness should be built up from the valley to the level of the summit and filled in with masonry, with a large number of storage chambers, and with a most perfect system of drainage, so that the accumulation of blood and refuse might be easily disposed of, together with the rivers of water which were constantly needed to keep the Courts of the Temple pure and sweet, in spite of the many sacrifices which were continually being offered under the blaze of the Oriental sun.

I. It was in consequence of these vast preliminary operations that the construction of the Temple consumed seven and a half years; but this period is comparatively small when compared with the eight hundred years which were consumed in the construction of Cologne Cathedral, and all the centuries during which Westminster Abbey slowly reached its present condition.

The work was partly done by the co-operation of Hiram, king of Tyre, whose skilled workmen hewed cedar and cypress trees out of Lebanon; but largely the work of construction, within the limits of Palestine itself, was accomplished by the forced labour of the ancient inhabitants of the land (1 Kings 5:13). These were torn from their homes, and compelled to labour in the unwelcome erection of the Temple of Jehovah, and one cannot wonder that out of the discontent which was generated by this enforced labour there came the elements of that revolution which culminated in the death of Adoniram, who was over the tribute, and the rending of the ten tribes of Israel from the house of David (1 Kings 12:18).

II. The materials of the Temple were very costly.—Every effort was made to build a house worthy of Jehovah. Inside, no stone was visible; gilded cedar-wood met the eye, together with the purple and embroidered tapestry. As in the old Tabernacle, so in the Temple, the sacred place was divided into two parts—the Holy and the Holiest. The latter was only entered once a year by the priest; it was wrapped in unbroken and perpetual darkness, save as the Shekinah shone between the Cherubim. It contained nothing but the ark, with its sacred tablets of stone, over which the outstretched wings of the Cherubim touched. This inner shrine was the especial home of God. His Tabernacle was with men, He was dwelling in the midst of His people; but there was no similitude or image of His presence. Everything was done to emphasise the belief of Israel that God was a Spirit.

III. Israel had never taken part in so magnificent a ceremonial as that dedication.—It appears that the preparation for it took twelve months to complete. It finally took place at the autumnal Feast of Tabernacles in the twelfth year of Solomon’s reign.

(a) The old Tabernacle was brought by a solemn procession of priests and Levites from the high place at Gibeon, to be stowed away in one of the chambers in the new Temple. On this occasion several of the ancient vessels and furniture, especially the golden altar of incense and the golden table of shewbread, were brought to their place in the new structure.

(b) But the most inspiring spectacle must have been the procession of priests and princes and chief representatives of the tribes which brought the ark from the temporary sanctuary in which David had placed it on Mount Zion forty years before. Probably all the men of Israel gathered to that procession. The progress of the assembled multitudes was slow, because of the sacrifices which were offered at every few steps. At the precincts of the Temple the great mass of the worshippers were stayed, the ark was taken from the shoulders of the Levites by the priests, who conveyed it into the darkness of the inner oracle, where it remained until it was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. The staves were drawn out of the sockets of the ark to denote that the wanderings of the ark were now over for ever. In the meanwhile, the air was filled with sacred songs from the dense groups of priests, Levites, and musicians robed in white, holding in their hands glittering harps and cymbals, whilst one hundred and twenty trumpeters, priests, rent the air with blasts from the silver trumpets.

At that moment, when the feelings of the priests and the whole congregation were wrought to the highest point, the Shekinah Cloud, the emblem of the Divine presence, dazzling in its white glory, settled down upon the house, so that the priests could no longer stand to minister there, and were driven forth before the overpowering splendour.

Illustrations

(1) ‘There was but the one material symbol with which Jehovah’s presence was believed to be constantly associated by His own appointment. This was the ark. No spot and no building but that which contained the ark was reckoned the dwelling-place of God. He might on extraordinary occasions manifest Himself elsewhere. In the absence of a legitimate sanctuary, He might be invoked and worshipped elsewhere. But the existence of one, and only one, House of God, is the necessary corollary from the existence of but one ark of God; and if the ark was Mosaic, which cannot be intelligently disputed, so must the law of the unity of the sanctuary be. This law may have been temporarily in abeyance, and it may have been sinfully disregarded, but the antiquity of the law and its Mosaic origin is by this single fact triumphantly established.’

(2) ‘The Temple had been finished some eleven months when it was dedicated. The delay probably was due to the desirability of waiting for the next year, which was a jubilee year. The occasion chosen was the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people gathered from the whole land to dwell in booths. With solemn pomp the ark was borne from its temporary resting-place to its abiding place. How appropriate Psalms 132 was for such an occasion! And how comforted Solomon must have been when he saw the Shekinah Cloud settle down like God’s blessing and sign of approval! Thus was the first Tabernacle consecrated for its holy purposes (Exodus 40:34). It was as though the Divine King had taken up His residence, constituting the Temple His palace.’

(3) The Temple, though richly beautified, while without the ark was like a body without a soul, or a candlestick without a candle, or (to speak more properly) a house without an inhabitant. All the cost and pains bestowed on this stately structure are lost if God do not accept them; and unless He please to own it as the place where He will record His name, it is, after all, but a ruinous heap; when therefore all the work is ended the one thing needful is yet behind, and that is, the bringing in of the ark. This is the end which must crown the work, and which here we have an account of the doing with great solemnity. Solomon presided in this service, as David did in the bringing up of the ark to Jerusalem.’


Verse 27

GOD’S DWELLING PLACE

‘Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded?’

1 Kings 8:27

I. Every one will recall the scene of Solomon, the master-mind stored with all the learning of the day, dedicating the Temple to God.—He was speaking to a nation naturally given to idolatry and to the localisation of worship, to a nation exclusive in their religion and almost incurable in their low, semi-materialistic ideas of God, speaking, too, at the moment of dedicating their most magnificent Temple to their national God; and yet he rises far above—nay, he cuts clean across—all their national prejudices, and in these sublime words reveals that God is infinite, not to be comprehended in temple or shrine. It was a stage in the revelation of God given to the world through Solomon, the great student of His works, a further revelation of the immensity, the inconceivability, of God. And yet Solomon dedicated the Temple to become the centre of the passionate religious fervour of the nation, to be deemed for a thousand years the most sacred spot in all the earth. How shall we regard this? Was it in Solomon a hypocritical condescension to popular superstition, and in the people an unconscious or forced inconsistency, or was it not rather in both a flash of anticipation of the great truth that every form of worship is inadequate and even misleading until we see its inadequacy?

II. We also have to learn this lesson, that all opinions about God, all systems of theology, are provisional, temporary, educational, like the Temple.—They are not the essence of truth. It is the deepest conviction, not of philosophers only, but of the pious congregations of our land also, that the harmony, and co-operation, and brotherhood of Christians is the will of God concerning us, and that it is not to be sought for in unity of opinion, and can never be obtained as long as opinion is held to be of primary importance in religion. It is to be sought for in some far deeper unity of faith in Christ and service to Him. In the ideal Christianity which Christ taught opinion is nothing, and purity of life, charity, and the love of God are everything. Let us, each in our own little circles, try to assist in this glorious transformation of Christianity by the steady subordination of opinion to the practical service of Jesus Christ.

—Canon J. M. Wilson.

Illustrations

(1) ‘We have here a striking description of the immensity and omnipresence of God. We have frequent expressions in Scripture of God being “in heaven”; the meaning of which is, not that He Who is in all places can be confined to any, or that any proper habitation can be ascribed to Him, Whom, as Solomon declares, the “heaven of heavens cannot contain”; but they are intended to represent His amazing height and dignity, not in place, but in power. Another reason of the expression of God’s being “in heaven,” is to signify that, though of His real, actual presence there is no confinement, yet of His glory and majesty there is in the heavens a particular manifestation. There it is that His glory is declared, and there the righteous shall see His face, and be blessed with the peculiar manifestation of His power and majesty. In like manner here upon earth; in those places where He has been pleased more particularly to manifest His glory, to place His name, and to receive the homage of His servants, there God, in Scripture phrase, is said to be. Thus in the Temple at Jerusalem, He, Whom the “heaven of heavens cannot contain,” did at this time deign to dwell, having appointed there to receive His tribute of worship.’

(2) ‘Heaven of heavens is a Hebrew superlative, like holy of holies, servant of servants, king of kings, song of songs, and denotes the highest heavens, the supreme place of the Divine abode (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2). The immensity of God’s being is such, that He cannot be limited to any locality however vast or glorious (cf. Isaiah 66:1). In building a house for God, therefore, Solomon had no gross or materialistic conception of the Most High. He was fully aware of Jehovah’s infinity, spirituality, and omnipresence; but he hoped and prayed that there might be a special manifestation of God’s presence in this house to His worshipping people.’

(3) ‘Solomon was not afraid to pray because some one might see or hear him do so. He would not have gone to prayer-meeting every week for thirty years without ever opening his lips.

Solomon prayed with his voice, his hands, and his heart—with all of himself. So does every wise man who prays wisely.

Solomon prayed because he had something to pray for, and not because it is customary to have two prayers before the sermon and one after, or because there were yet fifteen minutes before the time to close the meeting, and that quarter of an hour must be occupied somehow.

Solomon did not address the Lord as an equal; neither did he patronise the providence of God. He could be the richest man in the Church and still be a Christian.

Solomon did not hesitate, however, to assume that he had a claim upon the Lord. Every believer has such a claim—else what would be the signficance of the Divine promises?’

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Kings 8:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/1-kings-8.html. 1876.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology